I had the opportunity over the summer to visit Ireland for the first time. My mom and I went for a week long visit and decided to plan the trip ourselves and drive the whole way. As you might image, it was quite an adventure.
The comedy of errors that was our trip started off on day one when our flights (we had to book separately) both arrived several hours late and as my mom does not have a smart phone, we had no means of contacting each other once landing in Dublin. Even though neither of us had any idea what time the other’s flight arrived, we miraculously got there at the same time and ran into each other at the car rental desk. I feel like that was a foreshadowing moment of the trip: the situation seemed to be terribly unlucky but ended up working out great and became a stand out memory of the whole adventure.
We decided it would be easiest if my mom drove and I navigated. We lovingly named our GPS Molly Maguire and were on our way. Our first stop was Dublin.
Dublin completely exceeded all of my expectations. The architecture was medieval and charming, the pubs were so quintessentially Irish, and the city was a manageable size. As we started our first touristy day in Ireland, we realized we did not pack for the weather. As it was a balmy 90 degrees when we left Boston, the 55 degree weather was quite chilly and even though we did research prior, we did not take the change in temperature seriously. Alas, we forged ahead and enjoyed the River Liffey, Trinity College, and, of course, Guinness Storehouse.
After two days in Dublin, we hopped in our little Toyota Aygo and were off to Kilkenny. We felt like pros driving south to Kilkenny and arrived at our river front hotel feeling very pleased with ourselves. Unfortunately it was Sunday and many of the attractions were closed, but we were still able to enjoy the local architecture including stunning Kilkenny Castle.
We left Kilkenny early and headed to Blarney Castle, a stop on our way to the seaside town of Kinsale. We may have been a bit too confident while driving to Blarney Castle because after taking a corner faster than necessary, we got a flat tire. Luckily, a local taxi driver stopped and helped us out (we had no idea how to change a tire). He let us know we could buy a new tire in the town of Blarney and we were once again on our way. Blarney Castle and grounds were beautiful and a welcome respite from our arduous drive.
A couple of hours and 90 euros later we were back on the road to Kinsale. We chose Kinsale as one of our stops because it is the sister city to the town my family is from: Newport, RI. The town definitely has a Newport-y feel with the boat-lined shores and nautical-inspired shops. My favorite part of the Kinsale visit was enjoying a pint at a pub where a small group of musicians were nonchalantly playing Irish music and locals would come and go as they pleased joining in with instruments or song. It felt like a very authentic, Irish experience.
After a rainy morning in Kinsale, we headed to Kenmare, our last stop on the way to Galway. We thought our driving troubles were over, but we were very wrong. One wrong turn and a recalculation from Molly Maguire and we ended up on a road called “Priest’s Leap“. The drive may have been beautiful if it wasn’t so terrifying. We were stuck on this single lane mountain road for what seemed like forever (probably an hour) and were so terrified we were going to get a flat tire, hit another car head on, or tumble down the mountain never to be heard from again. We finally made it to Kenmare with a couple years shaved off our lives.
Kenmare was yet another cute Irish town. We forgave the locals when they laughed at us over our choice of road and enjoyed the shops and local history. The following day we left for Galway by way of the Ring of Kerry. The Ring wasn’t quite as scary as Preist’s Leap but after what we’d been through, we were very happy to hop on the highway.
Galway was one of our most anticipated destinations and we were left a bit disappointed upon arrival. It is very small and with the persisting mist and chilly weather we didn’t feel like exploring too much. We spent one of our full days there taking a day trip to Connemara and after another lovely drive through the countryside, we arrived back in Galway with a bit more enthusiasm.
Even though our trip was fraught with error, we had an amazing time chasing our roots through Ireland. I can’t wait to one day go back, but next time I might hire a driver.